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We had a wonderful conversation with Christine Schreyer, the creator of the Kryptonian language featured in Man of Steel and a professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, who uses a language creation assignment in one of her classes.

Top of Show Greeting: Moten

Links and Resources:

13 Responses to “Conlangery #100: Interview with Christine Schreyer”

  1. Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

    You forgot to mention the Top of Show Greeting language on the post :(.

    Otherwise, great interview, even with George’s difficulties with mastering the English language ;). The last remarks about the creation process that goes on with making such a thing as a big budget movie especially rings true, and explains a lot why something as profound as a language is often forgotten until it’s nearly too late.

    I guess this means our education work is far from over :).

    • admin

      Fixed that, thanks.
      As far as movie directors hiring conlangers: I’m sure if I were advising them, I’d ask them to think about such a thing during pre-production, but we aren’t really able to affect big Hollywood directors right now.

      • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

        Aaand the link for Moten: I thought I’d sent it with the sound file ;).

        And I agree: language creation should be thought about upfront, not at the last moment. As you all explained so well in that interview, a language is not a prop that appears here and there in the movie. It’s an essential part of the world-building which influences *everything*. If you spend so much time thinking about the details of people’s costumes in pre-production, which can’t you spend some time thinking about the language they used when they wrought those?!

        But as you write, we don’t have the means to influence big Hollywood directors (or really much anyone for that matter!) right now. The only thing we can do is be there when they actually ask for advice.

  2. Christine Schreyer

    Thanks again for a fun conversation on all things #conlang! Two small spelling corrections on the write-up above. British Columbia and Okanagan.

  3. Darren Doyle

    Darren Doyle here… That was fun to listen to! Congrats again to Dr. Schreyer on some excellent work. I find it quite amusing hearing how similar her experience in developing her version of Kryptonian was to my own, i.e., backwards from how you’d normally do something from scratch–starting with a list of names and words, and developing the phonology from there. What does “ao” sound like? What about “u” or “x”? The list of existing Kryptonian names/words to start from was decent, but I will add that it was much smaller than you would think it would be considering how long Superman has been around.

    I’ll also just throw out a couple of corrections–or, perhaps, clarifications–that I noticed in the interview.

    What you currently see in the comics is indeed a transliteration alphabet, but it is the only one that has been used. Prior to its introduction, there was a full alphabet (not transliteration) that had been developed by one of the long-time Superman editors. He was not a linguist, and the alphabet is a hot mess (I recreated it as a font you can download from my site). On top of that, they didn’t really “use” the alphabet in the comic–just threw out a string of letters akin to what you would get if you used the palms of your hands to smash out some lines on a keyboard.

    Smallville started out using the same transliteration alphabet as the comic (mid Season 2, I believe), but very quickly started throwing out what were supposed to be logographic characters, and the whole thing degenerated pretty quickly into meaningless “alien-looking” gibberish. It was disappointing to watch. The comic book transliteration font was the starting point from which I fleshed out a pretty hefty writing system (with some logographic elements as a nod to Smallville).

    While Schreyer’s Kryptonian only has the approximate “r”, my Kryptonian has both the approximate and the trilled (not tapped) “r” (as well as voiced post-alveolar coarticulating trilled r and a uvular trill). Perhaps the interviewer who mentioned seeing the two together had seen an example of my language and not Schreyer’s…

    Thanks again for the great interview!

        • Darren Doyle

          It’s not as bad as it sounds. Easy to learn with a little practice. Apparently it’s a phoneme in Czech (although I thought I was being clever when I added it–there really is nothing new under the sun).

    • admin

      It’s entirely possible I did. There is very little of Schreyer’s Kryptonian out there, so I could have mistaken the two. I thought I had seen the two rhotics in some news article or official promotional material, though. I’m not exactly sure.



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